Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Sep 26 23:51:29 UTC 2007

At 2:48 PM -0700 9/26/07, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>On Sep 26, 2007, at 2:24 PM, Wilson Gray wrote, to dInIs:
>>How does the following, heard on the tube, strike you:
>>"Step your ass on into this house!"
>>I have a friend who's used to hearing this kind of construction, but
>>he doesn't really understand it, He often greets me by saying, "How's
>>your ass?" For a long time, I couldn't understand his interest in the
>>state of my arse. Then it occurred to me that he had assumed that
>>"your ass" in constructions such as that above was could simply be
>>replaced by "you."
>ah, there's now a pulished account of "X's ass" for reference to
>persons and things:
>Beavers, John & Andrew Koontz-Garboden.  2006.   A universal pronoun
>in English?. Linguistic Inquiry 37.3.503-513. Download final
>published version (via Ingenta):
Yes, I've been looking at these a lot lately, prompted by two of our
grad students who discovered the paper above.  Indeed, I'm about to
give a talk in Paris about your ass (nothing personal) and related
phenomena.  It seems to be the one non-formally pronominal element
that occurs in personal datives.  Relevant data include:

I have a 152 tested IQ and I love my ass some red meat.

Movies, i love my ass some funny movies.

I should take this time to state how much I LOVE my
ass some Magma! Those guys fucking RULE!

i need my ass some ginkgo biloba

I want my ass some quesadillas

But although these occur, they are really quite rare--my hypothesis
is that it's because the personal dative (cf. the recent _American
Speech_ paper by Webelhuth & Dannenberg) tends to be benefactive (the
action or state is to the benefit of or under the control of the
subject, as in "I want to eat me a hamburger" or "I love me some
him"), while the _X's ass_ construction (as Beavers and
Koontz-Garboden note) tends to involve negative qualities or
imperfections of the ass-possessor.  Of course there are lots and
lots of hits for "I love my ass", but these refer to the body part in
question and don't occur readily in the frames exemplified above,
although they're not impossible and there may be individual
variation.  There are also some nice minimal pairs; "get your ass
some help" allows the proctological (literal) reading alongside the
psychotherapeutic (figurative) one, the latter showing up in contexts

Not a man alive (or dead, for that matter) would put up with your
whiney ass. Hmm, that explains a lot. Maybe you should get your ass
some help instead?

Get your ass some therapy or meds or both. What is wrong with your ass?

Stop reading and get your ass some help. See a podiatrist if you have to.

(Yup, a podiatrist.)


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